First Philippine Mt. Everest Expedition

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Last Friday, July 6, I had the opportunity to rub elbows with the members of the First Philippine Mt. Everest Expedition led by their expedition leader Arturo Valdez, Fred Jamili, Leo Oracion, Erwin ‘Pastor’ Emata, Noelle Wenceslao, Carina Dayondon and Janet Belarmino.They were invited by the UA&P PE Department to give a talk on excellence and their success in climbing the world’s highest mountain.

Art Valdez said that the success of the FPMEE showed that Filipinos can achieve triumph in the midst of extreme challenges. When he formed the team, he took the 3 C’s into consideration: Capability, Commitment & Compatibility of each individual members. Initially, Valdez thought that getting sponsors was easy, specially since this is a first for the Philippines and because he worked in the government as an undersecretary (he was the former undersecretary of Dave’s uncle, the late Gen. Arturo T. Enrile in DOTC). But they had difficulty in getting cash sponsorships and only had enough to pay for their plane ticket.

According to Pastor Emata (the second Filipino to reach the summit of Everest), when they started training three years ago, they had to give up their regular jobs and had to rely on their winnings in different adventure races so they can send money to their loved ones. Thanks to the Philippine Coast Guard for enlisting them, now they can afford to send regular allowances to their families. Such is the plight of our Filipino athletes.

Valdez confirmed that prayer played a major role in their success. Even if their team was composed of individuals with different religious backgrounds they always prayed together before eating, sleeping and climbing. The other teams would often wonder why they were always praying. He believed that the prayers of all the Filipinos have boosted their confidence and ensured the safety of the climbers.

Janet Belarmino ( former officemate of mine) shared that when they went to India as part of their training, they were taught how to respect the spirit of the mountains. They learned that one does not conquer the mountain, rather it is the mountain that conquers you. The Mt. Everest experience also taught them to appreciate the basic things one usually take for granted like taking a bath, sleeping in comfortable beds, going to the toilet and washing clothes. For each action they take, they have to consider the resources they have (fuel, oxygen, food, etc) and plan accordingly.

Wenceslao, Dayondon & Belarmino are the first Asean Women to climb the Mt. Everest and the first women to traverse Mt. Everest from the North Side (Tibet) to the South Side (Nepal). The climb was treacherous, they passed several dead bodies along the way.

When asked what’s next after Mt. Everest, Leo Oracion (the first Filipino to climb the peak of Mt. Everest) declared that they have no plans of setting another record in the immediate future as they want Filipinos to appreciate and learn from the First Philippine Mt. Everest Expedition – that indeed the Filipinos can succeed if we are united in deed and in spirit and added that each of us have our own Everest to climb.

If you want to find out more about their Mt. Everest experience just click on FPMEE and Kaya ng Pinay links.


1 Comment

  1. Yasuko Namba of Japan summited Everest in 1996, but died as they were going down during a storm. She was 47 yrs old.

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